Posted tagged ‘impacting’

The Blessing of Three Dave’s

June 17, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          June 17, 2017

                                        

Three seems to be a number that is used quite often in various ways. In A Christmas Carol Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. The three wisemen brought gifts three kinds of gifts to the baby Jesus, and my seminary preaching professor taught us to preach sermons that had three points…and a poem!

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! Shadrach, Meshach, and To Bed We Go- er, Abednego! Abraham’s three visitors! Three crosses on top of Golgotha! The angels in Isaiah’s vision saying “Holy, holy, holy!” Jesus saying “Verily, verily, verily!” Important encounters and relationships seem to grow out of threes!

I’ve been blessed by three Dave’s who have been a part of my life journey. Our son, David, is  named after two of the Dave’s. He would have been named after the third Dave, but we hadn’t met him yet!

Dave Shaffer was a part of the first church I served on the staff of after graduating from seminary. He and Pam graced the lives of a just married young couple entering the intimidating experience of ministry. Laughter was a part of our friendship. We felt comfortable around one another. My ministry at the church was a short fifteen months, but our friendship is about to hit forty years.

Dave Hughes was one of my high school best friends and my best man. We were a part of the same youth group, ate a lot of pizza together, and played basketball together. I was privileged to perform the wedding ceremony for Dave and his wife, Robyn, and on a different wedding night- the wedding night after our friend Mike Fairchild got married-  Dave and I, groomsmen in the wedding party, went to the hospital in our tuxedos to celebrate the birth of my first niece, Jennifer. Three weeks ago his oldest son, Brad, was found dead on a hiking trail in Arizona’s Saguaro National Park, passing away from heat exhaustion and dehydration. I called my friend to walk the journey of loss and sorrow with him. I know he would have done the same for me.

And the third Dave, a hulk of a man named Dave Volitis, came strolling into my life about 15 years ago when he and Donna moved into the house across the street from us. Now a retired Air Force Chief Master Sargent living in San Antonio, he continues to grace my life with his stories and encouragement. We recently were a part of a mission work team that traveled to British Columbia together. My kids were always intrigued by Mr. Volitis, his humorous sayings (“higher than a cat’s back”, “about as welcome as a hemorrhoid”, “about as useful as tits on a boar hog”), and his engaging personality. He became a part of my congregation even though he and his family were more of the pentecostal tint. I cried when he moved to San Antonio.

Three Dave’s! I’ve had other Dave’s as a part of my life as well, but these three men left their imprints on my life…past, present, and future. I envision a time in the future when I arrange to have them all together in the same place, and to express my appreciation. What stories would come out of that gathering!!! I think that would be pretty cool!

A utility company worker, a civil engineer, and a career military person…about as diverse in occupations as you can get. Each of them now a grandfather, and each of them a part of families that have encountered significant loss in the past year.

Each of us has been blessed by numerous people in various ways. God plants them in our lives for a bit, a while, or a lifetime. Rarely do they congregate around the same first name, but the repetition of my Dave’s has highlighted in permanent marker how blessed I am!

Stories That We Remember

May 30, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                May 30, 2016

                              

Yesterday was an amazing day for Carol and me. The second Air Force Academy cadet that we have been a sponsor family for is graduating this week. Justin Katzovitz went to the same high school that Carol did, Hinsdale Central in Hinsdale, Illinois. Justin is Jewish. His parents were a little apprehensive about having Justin being hosted by an American Baptist pastor and his wife, but Justin said he wanted us. We’ve learned a few things about one another the past four years, like when we took him to Walmart on a Sunday night to buy Hanukkah decorations for a meal that next week. He had been assigned that task of decorating the meal table. And we realized that Hanukkah is not high on the list of products being sold at Walmart. Justin settled for a couple of strings of lights. Yesterday we attended the Jewish Baccalaureate service in the lower level of the Academy chapel. It was a warm and inviting gathering of those of the Academy Jewish community and their guests.

The speaker was a man named Joel Grishaver, a Jewish writer, teacher, and storyteller. Joel must be in his seventies and is afflicted with some form of mobility affliction that requires him to use two canes that are braced around his forearms. He told us a wonderful story about a rabbi who had died, and at a gathering for him people told story after story of how he had affected their lives.

Joel then made the point that stories connect us. Keep telling the stories. Stories draw us together in deep relationships. It was a talk that I have continued to ponder ever since I heard it.

Last night a number of young ladies that I coached in basketball at Liberty High School between 2008-2013 came over to our house for a cook-out. One of them is about to enter graduate school. Another takes her LSAT exam next month. One of them graduated college and is now in that anxious period called “job search process.” Two others are entering their final semester, or year of college. Three are about to begin college, and another will be a second-year Cornhusker.

We ate around our patio table on the back deck, laughed, laughed some more, and we told stories. Stories of past events and things that were said that will always be remembered. The story of Katie Cahn getting her two front teeth knocked out in practice, which wasn’t funny at the time it happened, but was described in detail with laughter last night. The huge mouth guards that Katie Upton and Amanda Dix wore in vivid red and blue colors, and especially wore them after Katie Cahn lost her teeth! The picture of the female Goliath that Alex Rivas had on her cell phone that she was suppose to try to tackle in a women’s rugby game at Colorado University. Kayla Childs’ stories from her incredible trip to Cambodia. Kira Comfort’s stories of breaking bones and learning the game of golf… a non-contact sport! Emily Aldrich’s story of a less than friendly verbal exchange with a Palmer Terror player one game.

We sat and shared stories, and laughed, and exaggerated, and laughed, and then told stories of others who weren’t with us last night at the gathering.

Stories connect us and deepen the depth and strength of the roots of the relationships. By the end of the evening people were shivering with a mixture of chills and chuckles. As Joel Grishaver had told the Jewish cadet graduates that morning about the power of stories, I saw it being experienced last night.

Retiring or Being Reconditioned?

October 16, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                          October 16, 2015

                                               

On December 31 I will retire from full-time ministry. Yesterday I was at a retirement seminar put on by our denomination’s pension plan. So many questions…what if’s…and shall be’s!

I’m getting a lot of questions like “Retiring already?” and “What are you going to do?” I also gets comments and insinuations that pastors have a lifetime calling and, therefore, I can’t retire.

I agree with the lifetime calling aspect. I’m simply retiring as the pastor of a church where I have been for the past sixteen plus years. I’m still a pastor, I just won’t get paid!

Wednesday night I met with a young lady…who is suddenly fifty-five, who was in the youth group I led back in the late seventies. We talked for three hours and I was blessed to hear about her continuing spiritual journey. In many ways…in those three hours…I was her youth pastor again. In some ways I have been her pastor/encourager/mentor for about four decades.

Through social media I’m still a pastor in undefined ways for numerous people who have been a part of my life in some way over the past forty years. I offer encouragement to a woman who was a part of the first youth group I led back in Marseilles, Illinois. She is waging a courageous battle against cancer.

This past summer I invited young ladies I had coached in basketball at Liberty High School over a five year span to come over a Sunday night cook-out. The igniting fuse for that event was the death of a couple of months before that of a young lady I had coached, and who was their teammate. Even though I am “Coach Wolfe” to these young ladies I was a little bit their pastor that night…as we grieved…as we laughed…as we celebrated friendships and shared experiences.

I could go on and on, but my point is that retiring as the pastor of a church doesn’t mean that I am retiring from being a pastor. There is a huge difference. It means that I won’t be on a schedule to “to receive a word from the Lord” each week for the next Sunday’s sermon, but it doesn’t mean that I won’t receive a word from the Lord.

It means that I no longer will be pushed to get over to see one of the seniors who is in poor health, but it does mean that I will go see a senior friend who is in poor health because I love him dearly.

It means I won’t feel the urgency to spend time in the Word, but it does mean that I will spend time in the Word because I have a desire to be enriched and spiritual nourished.

It means that I won’t have to write a sermon each week, but I’ll not stop writing. Perhaps…cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye…perhaps I’ll be able to have a greater impact through written words more than spoken words. The power of a “shared word” can have a ripple effect.

So I’m moving out of a role that has certain job description responsibilities and into a similar role that will become clearer as I travel on the road. I’m like my old softball glove that I’ve had since 1979. Carol gave it to me as a birthday present that year…even before we were married! I used that glove again this past summer as a part of our church softball team. It still catches, but has a couple of broken strings and is looking…”weathered!” It still catches, if the softball hits in certain spots, but just needs a little reconditioning to be used in more effective ways.

That’s me! I’m like an ole’ softball glove with a couple of broken strings just in need of some reconditioning!